This month’s Liberty Christian Spotlight features alum Caleb Hopler, a 2007 graduate of LCS and son of former LCS teacher Terri Hopler. Caleb’s interest in environmental studies led him to become involved in numerous international sustainability and social justice projects since his days at Liberty Christian School, including an internship with Maderas Collective in Nicaragua. Here is what Caleb had to share with us.
Q. What have been your education and/or work experiences since you graduated from LCS?
A. After attending Liberty Christian School from kindergarten through 8th grade, I went on to Chapelgate Christian Academy for high school and Virginia Tech for college.
Q. What LCS teacher had the most influence on you and why?
A. Titus McGrath (former middle school science teacher). His teaching methods and overall personality kindled a love for natural science in me. Beyond education, he and I became friends and are still friends to this day. Not only was he a teacher and friend, he served as one of my mentors during middle school.
Q. What is your favorite LCS memory?
A. During the school’s auction fundraiser, Mrs. Jackson (former 5th grade teacher) offered a fun overnight trip to her house for the winner plus three friends. I believe she had done this multiple years in a row and it was quick to become the prize every student wanted. Josh Hindle won and I was one of the friends picked to go with him. After school on a Friday we had a big dinner, went out to the movies and watched “Holes,” then just had a big slumber party the rest of the night.
Q. What is an accomplishment that you are most proud of in your life so far?
A. I have accomplished a lot so far in my life, graduating from Virginia Tech, conquering a multitude of severe health issues, and many international sustainability and social justice projects. However, what I am most happy about is the fact that I have been able to accomplish these things with God as my focus. I could not have accomplished anything if it weren’t for my reliance on Him.
Q. Is there anything from your time at LCS that sparked your interest in environmental studies or working in Central America?
A. Liberty Christian School is as a wonderful school that taught me much more than education, it also instilled values, passions, integrity, and a respect for all life. LCS, as well as my parents, laid the foundation for me to be able to hear God’s calling, and in this way, LCS helped lead me to work internationally in sustainable ventures.
Q. What type of work and ministry have you been involved with in Nicaragua? Describe what led you to your internship with the Maderas Collective.
A. During my time at Virginia Tech, I had a yearlong internship that took me to Nicaragua twice, focusing on ecotourism and fuel-efficient cookstoves. With a love for the country and the contacts I built up, it was easy to decide that after graduating Virginia Tech I would work in Nicaragua in sustainability, hoping to create lasting partnerships that would allow me to return to Nicaragua for new projects in the future. After cold-calling the CEO of Maderas Collective, they took me in and mentored me until I was ready to begin my first project: biomass briquettes made from local agricultural wastes. Currently, I am creating and leading a briquettes team in San Jose de Bocay, teaching English in a local school, and helping to design a sustainability program with the wastes generated by production at Maderas Collective.
Q. What are some of the interesting things you have been a part of since moving to Nicaragua?
A. Nicaragua is a fascinating place with a rich culture and gorgeous natural environments. I have hiked volcanoes, explored a cave with thousands of bats flying around me, rescued a wild sloth that was stuck in the middle of the road, watched a rural rodeo during a holiday… The list continues. Every day I experience something new.
Q. What do you envision yourself doing 5 years from now?
A. Though I love exploring new things, I also love familiarity, a place I know very well to return to after new great adventures. Therefore I’d like to move back to either Maryland, Northern Virginia, or Las Vegas, NV (all places I’ve lived) and work a job in sustainability while on the side, running a nonprofit to benefit Nicaragua.